Concept: Sexy…. Definitely Sexy/Retro Pop
Debut: February 10th, 2007
Debut Song(s): Irony
Status: Disbanded in 2017
Agency: JYP Entertainment
Role: Leader, Main Vocalist
Left in 2015
Role: Main Vocalist, Keyboardist
Left when Disbanded
Role: Visual, Bassist, Lead Vocalist, Ex-Young Member
Left in 2010, Rejoin in 2015 and now DISBANDED
Role: VIP, Main Dancer, Vocalist
Left in 2013
Role: Drummer, VIP, Main Rapper, Vocalist
Left when Disbanded
Role: Youngest Member, Guitarist, Lead Rapper
Left when Disbanded
Role: Dancer. Uh….. Sexy Factor
Left in 2007
Before SNSD came to the top in 2009 with “Gee”, THE NUMBER ONE girl group in South Korea was the Wonder Girls. The tremendous success Wonder Girls saw in their straight run from “Tell Me” to “So Hot” to “Nobody” (all ICONIC songs) are perhaps unmatched by any girl groups since. Even after SNSD rose to the top, the top girl groups of South Korea were still the “WonSoKa” trinity, of which Wonder Girls is the Won part (the So and Ka refer to SNSD and Kara). The only person that ultimately stopped that was JYP, or more accurately JYP’s ambitions when he pushed them into the Western, a decision which ultimately failed and thus cost them their position at the elite girl groups table.
In May 2006, Park Jin-Young (JYP) announced that his agency’s first girl group’s name would be Wonder Girls, after the DC Comics’ character of the same name. The group was later introduced through the reality TV series MTV Wonder Girls. The first four episodes outlined the characteristics and profiles of each member.
The group officially held their debut stage on MBC’s Show! Music Core on February 10, 2007 by performing the song “Irony” from their first album “The Wonder Begins”. The album sold 11,454 physical copies in 2007. However, in mid-2007, however, members of the Wonder Girls were afflicted by various injuries and health problems, the most severe of which was when Sohee tore her knee ligament in a fall from a running motorcycle during the filming of a movie. These health problems ultimately caused Wonder Girls to lose member Hyuna, whose parents withdrew her from the group due to their concerns over her problems with chronic gastroenteritis and fainting spells. She was quickly replaced by Yubin, a trainee from Good Entertainment, who officially debuted with the group with the release of their first full-length album, “The Wonder Years”.
The lead single of “The Wonder Years”, “Tell Me”, was a breakout hit for Wonder Girls. The single reached and stayed at number one on various Korean television and internet music charts for months, netting Wonder Girls (their first) 10 show wins, including a Triple Crown on Inkigayo. The song also became a number one hit in Thailand. The “Tell Me”’s dance popularity became widely known as the “Tell Me Virus”. “The Wonder Years” was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2007 Mnet Asian Music Awards (though it did not win).
Soon after, in May 2008, Wonder Girl’s dropped the single “So Hot”, which became another monster hit for Wonder Girls. The song instantly topped multiple charts and stayed at the top for weeks, snagging Wonder Girl’s another 11 show wins, including yet another Triple Crown on Inkigayo (again, remember that this was a time when you can only win TWO to THREE shows a week, versus SIX shows a week now). On a roll now, the Wonder Girls quickly made another comeback in early fall 2008 with the released of their first mini album, “The Wonder Years – Trilogy”, with the title track being (the iconic, and one of THE KPOP SONGS YOU HAVE TO KNOW) “Nobody”. The song quickly went to No. 1 on KBS’ Music Bank, staying there for four consecutive weeks. For their monster 2008, Wonder Girls capped off the year by sweeping “Song of the Year”, “Best Music Video” (both for “Nobody”) and “Best Female Group”. The group also captured the Daesang (“Artist of the Year”) at the 18th Seoul Music Awards.
Having conquered South Korea, JYP next wanted to take the Wonder Girls to the Western music scene. In March 2009, the agency announced the launch of the group’s English-language music career in the United States. An English version of “Nobody” was released as their debut English single, which entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 76, becoming the first K-pop group to appear on the chart. The group later joined the Jonas Brothers (yes THAT Jonas Brothers) on the North American leg of the Jonas Brothers World Tour 2009 as a supporting act, eventually for a total of 45 concert dates.
However, to support their English debut, Sunmi (and also Sohee) have had to drop out of high school. Sunmi eventually decided she wanted to return to school, and thus on January 22, 2010, JYP announced that Sunmi would be postponing her musical career to pursue academics and that was replaced by Hyerim, who was originally set to debut with miss A (otherwise known as Suzy and the girls). Sunmi’s departure put many of group’s American plans into disarray. They had been preparing an English album, set for released in February 2010, as well as planning to have a headlining tour in January 2010. However, due to Sunmi’s departure, plans for the tour were delayed and the album was eventually scrapped. Eventually, on April 5, 2010, the Wonder Girls announced a 20-shows tour of the US and Canada, “The Wonder World Tour”, which included fellow label mates 2PM for nine dates in conjunction with Live Nation as supporting acts.
The Wonder Girls followed up their tour announcement with the release of their latest EP, “2 Different Tears”, recorded in Chinese, Korean, and English. Wonder Girls then returned to South Korea to promote the Korean version of “2 Different Tears”, winning several more shows in the process.
On June 30, 2011, the Wonder Girls were announced to have been invited to perform at the 2011 Special Olympics closing ceremonies in Athens, Greece. They performed the traditional Korean folk song “Arirang” along with “Nobody” sung in English and “Tell Me” sung in Korean. On November 7, the group’s second full-length album, “Wonder World” was released, with the title track “Be My Baby”.
In early 2012, the group attempted to return to their American activities with the release of their made-for-TV movie The Wonder Girls in early 2012 on the TeenNick channel. Following the release of the movie, the group received proposals from major broadcasting companies in the United States, and were in talks concerning full U.S. promotions and activities for their debut English-language album. The twelve-track album was said to have been completed and was supposed to be relased during the summer of 2012.
Though still popular in Korea, the group’s popularity was now waning. In June 2012, the group made a Korean comeback with the mini-album “Wonder Party”, released on June 3, 2012, with the lead single, “Like This”, premiered on the same day. The song eventually won 5 more shows for the Wonder Girls. In July, the group made their official Japanese debut with the release of a Japanese-language version of “Nobody”. Their fourth English single, “Like Money”, featuring Akon, was released on July 9. On November 14, Wonder Girls released the compilation album “Wonder Best” in Japan, which mainly included updated versions of older hit songs and Japanese versions of their songs with just one new song.
The Wonder Girls were now on the downslope of their career. After leader Sunye announced in November 2012 that she would get married in January 2013 to her boyfriend James Park, JYP announced that the group would go on hiatus. This was followed by the news in December 2013 that Sohee had decided to leave JYP Entertainment and the group to focus on her acting career (honestly, she’s still a very meh actress). Finally, though JYP initially denied that Sunye had retired and claimed that she was still part of the group, Sunye herself announced in December 14 that she had officially retired from the entertainment industry to focus on her family and missionary work.
In July 2015, JYP Entertainment announced that the Wonder Girls would be making a comeback after a three-year hiatus, with Sunmi rejoining the group after a stint as a soloist. They returned with a new concept: a four-member band with Yubin on the drums, Yeeun on the keyboard, Hyerim playing guitar, and Sunmi playing the bass. “Reboot”, their comeback and third full-length album was released on August 3, 2015. Though now weak, it spoke to the Wonder Girl’s peak power that the album was still a commercial success, peaking at number five on Gaon Albums Chart and number two on Billboard World Albums. Billboard ranked the album as the best Kpop albums of 2015.
On July 5, 2016, Wonder Girls released their fourth single “Why So Lonely”, with “To the Beautiful You” and “Sweet & Easy” serving as B-sides. The digital single quickly topped the Gaon Digitals chart. On July 12th, Wonder Girls won a show for “Why So Lonely (which ultimately won 4 shows), marking their first show win in 4 years.
Finally, the end. On January 26, 2017, JYP Entertainment announced that Wonder Girls were disbanding, with only Yubin and Hyerim renewing their contracts and Yeeun and Sunmi had decided to leave the company. As a goodbye, group released their final single “Draw Me” on February 10, marking their 10th anniversary since debut.